Immunisation for All

Christiansen, President of MSD’s Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region

At the recently-ended African Vaccination Week, it was canvassed that the advantages of vaccination should be extended beyond children to include teenagers and adults to provide them protection against certain deadly diseases

By Maureen Chigbo /May 12, 2014, @ 01:00 GMT

THE six-day African Vaccination Week has ended. The week, which lasted from April 22 to 27, was organized with the theme: “Vaccination — a Shared Responsibility.”  It was aimed at highlighting the role and importance of everybody participating in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis, measles, tetanus, diphtheria, influenza, rotavirus diarrhea, pneumonia, viral hepatitis and cancers associated with HPV (cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers).

The efficacy of vaccines and their impact on public health are no longer questioned. They have contributed to the prevention of more than 25 circulating infectious diseases and have allowed the avoidance of a large number of long-term handicaps. Likewise, the number of spared deaths each year is estimated at about two to three millions, thanks to immunisation. However, despite the progress in Africa, many challenges still remain. The advantages of vaccination should be extended beyond children to include teenagers and adults, hence to provide protection against deadly diseases such as meningitis, diarrhea or even cancers associated with HPV (cervical cancer and ano-genital cancers). In Africa, a woman dies every eight hours because of cancer- deaths that we can avoid today thanks to early immunisation.

There is also vaccination against human papilloma virus infections (human papillomavirus, HPV,) that are quite common as they may infect skin and mucous membranes. Researchers distinguish more than 100 genotypes of papillomavirus, of which 40 may infect genitals and 13 are recognised as oncogenes.

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, STI. At least half of sexually active individuals encounter HPV during their lifetime. Any sexual contact is associated with a risk of infection. Having a cutaneous and mucosal transmissive nature, HPV infection might occur despite condom use; hence vaccination proves to be important.

Today, there are two vaccines against HPV: the bivalent vaccine targeting the two main oncogenes HPV types (16 and 18) and a the quadrivalent vaccine targeting HPV type 6 and 11 (responsible for 90 percent of the cases of genital warts and HPV type 16 and 18 which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, 40 to 50 percent of vulva cancer, 70 percent of vagina cancers and 95 percent of anus cancers.

The World Immunization Week is the perfect occasion to shed light on the tremendous progress achieved in terms of immunisation and to draw attention to cancers induced by viral infections such as HPV infections (uterus and vulva cancers) which can be henceforth prevented rather than cured. Likewise, it is an opportunity to stress the importance of integrating such type of vaccines in our national public health programmes.

MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), manufacturer of vaccines,  during the week reiterated its support to the World Immunization Week, an annual initiative launched by the World Health Organisation, WHO, and its partners to celebrate and promote immunisation through acts of raising awareness, education and communication. “MSD is proud to support World Immunisation Week in Africa, which provides an important opportunity to raise awareness about the public health impact of vaccination. Vaccines are one of the greatest public health stories in history, and the MSD has played its part in that story. For more than 50 years, our scientists have now helped to prevent rare diseases such as measles and mumps, as well as diseases never thought preventable such as shingles and cervical cancer. Our commitment to protecting human health by ensuring availability and accessibility of vaccines is vital to our mission as a company,” said Soren Bo Christiansen, president of MSD’s Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

With the participation of more than 180 countries, territories and regions around the globe, the World Immunisation Week aims at issuing a reminder that vaccines help fight a large number of infectious diseases and calls for action to improve immunization coverage for all age individuals.

MSD today (known as Merck in the United States and Canada) is a global health leader, committed to help the world live better. Thanks to its medicines, vaccines, biological therapeutics, consumer and animal health products, MSD collaborates with clients and works in more than 140 countries to provide innovative health solutions.

— May 12, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

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